By Kristin Berkey-Abbott
We will be spending the next 2 weeks with the Pentecost text of Acts 2. Many Christians don't ever read much more about the early church than this Pentecost text. That's a shame for many reasons, but primarily because we tend to see the first century church as one blessed by the Holy Spirit. Those believers, able to speak in languages that everyone could understand! Why can't we do that? Those believers went out to spread Christianity to the far corners of civilization! We may compare our actions to those believers and find ourselves deficient.
We often celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church, but we often fail to mention that this birthing, with all its pain and messiness, is an ongoing process. We tend to look back at the early days of the Church with idealistic vision, but if we carefully reread the letters of Paul, we see that those churches had just as many problems as our current churches. We tend to see ourselves as lacking, but we don't have the longer view.
Maybe we're feeling overwhelmed by the example set by that first generation of believers. Maybe we wish this holiday could just pass us by.
Maybe we're afraid of some of the more, well, pentecostal elements of the holiday: the speaking in tongues (but in languages that could be understood by native speakers), the rushing wind, the fire.
Maybe you're having more of a dry bones year than a Spirit seared year. Maybe you've been having a dry bones decade. It might be hard for you to believe that Holy Spirit or no Holy Spirit, any flesh can be hung back on a dried out frame.
Maybe you've been whipped by so many winds that you don't know which way to turn. Maybe it's hard for you to hear the breath of God with the howling of so many other winds in your life.
Maybe you feel scorched by circumstances. Maybe you're looking at your desert of a life and thinking that you could use some water.
Often in nature, we see that it takes an unusual event, like a fire or a storm, to invigorate a landscape. We look at the immediate aftermath and see a moonscape that looks forever barren. Yet if we came back in a few years, we'd be amazed by how much new growth we'd see. And that new growth would have never gotten a chance without the calamitous, clearing event.
On this festival day, revel in the promise of renewal that God offers. Be alert for new visions and different directions. Trust that desiccated ruins--whether that be our lives, our Church, our neighborhoods, our planet--can be reinvigorated.